The countdown is on to the club's Christmas Handicap which will take place on the evening of Thursday 9 December.
The event will take place over a 5k circuit at Lancaster Park and all ages and abilities are encouraged to take part.
There will be kilometer markers around the course with lead and tail bikes. Bright/reflective clothing must be worn.
Participants are encouraged to return to the clubhouse after the event where there will be a prize table and buffet.
Everyone should bring a wrapped gift for the prize table (worth £5) and a contribution for the buffet.
To take part, you need to send a recent 5k time and your age on the day of the race so that handicaps can be calculated. E-mail your details to firstname.lastname@example.org
Fancy dress is welcome. Face masks should be worn in the clubhouse, which will be kept ventilated.
The race starts at 6.50pm at Lancaster Park or meet at the clubhouse at 6.30pm.
For further information, contact Kevin Bray on 07896 055794.
The destructive effects of Storm Arwen were visible in Morpeth for all to see on Saturday morning, causing the cancellation of sporting fixtures right across the region including all local parkruns. But not even extreme weather could bring a halt to cross country proceedings with the fourth fixture in the North East Harrier League season still taking place in Durham on Saturday afternoon.
With an Arctic blast gusting across the exposed course overlooking Durham City from the Aykley Heads Police HQ, conditions added to an already challenging course, which is a real cross country test at the best of times and includes a long muddy hill section to negotiate several times.
With a number of Morpeth Harriers unable even to make the journey from more rural parts of the county, numbers were understandably down across the board, but there were still several hundred competitors, with some 400 in the Senior Men’s fixture and 250 in the Women’s.
Freddie Banfield was the club’s first runner in what was also his first Under 11 cross country outing - and one he is unlikely to forget - completing the one kilometre course in 6 minutes 14 seconds.
Charlotte Marshall had a good run in the Under 13s, coming home first runner from Slow Pack in 4th overall, with Megan Potrac 10th out of Fast Pack, though Emma Tomlinson was sadly a victim of the conditions and had to withdraw. With only 17 runners in total and only two complete teams, the race was very much typical of the smaller fields in all the Young Athlete competitions, although Morpeth remain a good 3rd in the Team Division.
The club’s first team success was again in the Under 15 Boys, with Morpeth one of only three clubs fielding a full team. Led home by Oli Calvert in 4th place in 12:57, the day’s second fastest time, with Oli Tomlinson not far behind in 5th (both out of Fast), the scoring count was completed by Elliot Mavir in 8th out of Slow Pack, with Dan Burrow (13th) also running. The boys comfortably head their division and look set for certain success if they continue to turn out.
Sadly Tabby Robson was once again the club’s sole representative in the U/15 Girls, finishing in a good 5th place in 14:48, the 3rd fastest time of the day. She deserves lots of praise for continuing to plough what is at present a lone furrow.
It was a different story in the U/17 Boys, who remains perhaps the club’s strongest team, although previously ever-present Bertie Marr was unable to make the journey from Rothbury.
In his first Harrier League fixture of the season, Joe Dixon had a very good run from Slow Pack to come home in 2nd place in 18:24 behind Brandon Pye of Houghton Harriers, whose 17:53 was the fastest run of the day. Behind Joe, Sam Tate also ran well from Slow Pack to finish 4th (20:07). Will De Vere Owen was 11th in 18:56 to make the team count, with Ryan Davies 16th (19:13), Matthew Walton 18th (19:39) and James Tilley 20th (20:28), all running from Fast Pack.
The club provided both the 1st and 2nd teams home, and were in fact the only outfit to finish two complete teams, the U/17s like their younger colleagues heading their division. They will all be hoping that they are able to make the long journey South West to Newquay on Friday to take part in the English Schools Cross Country Cup, and that conditions are a little more clement.
Numbers for the combined U/17 Girls and U/20 Women were swelled by a number of students from Durham University taking part. Millie Breese was 4th home in 21:05 from Fast Pack, all those ahead of her running from Slow. Millie’s run was the fastest of the day and certainly one of the best, her time bettering those of runners several years older. Durham University unsurprisingly won the team count, with Morpeth 2nd thanks to good runs by Caitlin Flanagan (7th in 24:06 from Slow) and Kate Gaffing (17th in 25:38 from Slow). The team remain well placed in their division in 2nd.
The sun peeked out temporarily for the Senior Women’s fixture over two laps with some 225 finishers – and then thought better of it and went back in. Won perhaps unsurprisingly by local outfit Elvet Striders, who turned out in force, Morpeth’s Women were frustratingly only one point on the day behind runaway division leaders Elswick in 3rd place but did move into 2nd place in the division overall.
There was another quite remarkable run by Cat Macdonald, who got all the way up to 4th place from Fast Pack in the day’s fastest time of 27:21, the race being won again by students from Durham University out of Slow Pack.
An equally outstanding performance came from veteran Jane Hodgson, only two places behind Macdonald in 6th in 28:12. The team count of four was completed by Lindsey Quinn (41st in 31:20) and veteran off roader Gwenda Cavill (94th in 37:58). Clare Walker (198th in 45:02) and Margaret Macdonald (208th in 46:12) also battled through the conditions. Evergreen Over 75 Paul Bentley completed his 4th Harrier League fixture in a row in 42:06 for 171st.
Conditions had worsened by the time the Senior Men started on their three laps, and indeed there was a blizzard of snow by the finish. That didn’t deter Morpeth’s own Flying Finn, Finn Brodie, who showed the rest of the field a clean pair of heels from the off.
Running from Slow Pack, Finn ran the day’s fastest time of 36:07 but was chased every inch of the way by club colleague Alex Brown. Always a strong finisher, Alex might have got on level terms had he not lost a shoe on the last lap. In the end, he settled for 2nd place and the day’s 2nd fastest time of 36:20.
Sam Hancox was another looking to use the race as a warm-up for the North East Cross Country Championships, and he also had a strong run from Medium Pack, finishing in 12th place overall in 38:30.
With Tom Innes in 38th (38:49) and Connor Marshall 69th (40:20), the scoring six was made up by Paul Banks, 45:59 from Slow, with a winning team count edging out Birtley and Sunderland Harriers. Morpeth have now moved back to the top of the Division and, better still, have opened clear water between themselves and chasing clubs Sunderland and Tyne Bridge.
The scoring six were backed up by Rob Hancox, 89th from Slow in 46:11; Eric Adams, 161st from Medium in 45:08; Andrew Hebden, 170th from Medium in 45:22; Adam Coulson, 210th from Slow in 49:73 and Jake Parmley, 271st from Slow in 52:01. (All times actual times run)
A big congratulations to all who defied the weather – and perhaps logic – and turned out and to parents and supporters too, but let’s not forget the officials and marshals who were on the course for the best part of five hours.
The next Harrier League fixture is on Saturday 8 January at Thornley Hall Farm, Peterlee, the next cross country fixture (for those entered) the NECAA XC at Sedgefield on Saturday 11 December, when we will all be hoping for some better weather.
The gallery of images from the race below is courtesy of Stuart Whitman.
Meanwhile on the other side of the country there were much better conditions prevailing for the British Athletics Cross Country Challenge at Sefton Park, Liverpool. With the race doubling up as trials for the European Cross Country, the cream of the country’s athletics talent was out in full force.
Now studying at Oklahoma State University, Rory Leonard made the long but worthwhile journey back across the Atlantic to take part, with the aim of qualifying for the U/23 event.
This he did in fine style, finishing in 10th place overall and 2nd U/23 in a time of 29:00 behind race winner Jack Rowe of Aldershot and Farnham (28:05) with Andy Butchart 2nd in 28:16, and can look ahead to collecting another representative honour.
Matthew Briggs was the club's only other representative, finishing 90th in 31:09, while North East interests were also represented by Calum Johnson of Gateshead, 8th in 28:52, and Sam Charlton of Wallsend, 16th in 29:14.
The Women’s race was won by Jess Judd of Blackburn Harriers in 26:29 with Jenny Nesbitt 2nd in 26:46 and the North East's Kate Avery 6th in 27:01.
Sunday saw the 69th running of the annual Brampton to Carlisle race, now one of the oldest fixtures in the road racing calendar and an event in which Morpeth Harriers have always had a keen interest.
Won this year by Andrew Heyes of Hallamshire Harriers in 48 minutes 42 seconds with Leeds City’s Heather Townsend winning the women’s race in an outstanding time of 56:50, there were only some four Morpeth entrants this time round.
There was an excellent run by Rachelle Falloon, who in her first competitive outing since the Signals Relays in August clocked 1 hour 1 minute 12 seconds and was 3rd Senior Woman. Her time will also give her an elite entry for the Great North Run next year which she has her sights set on. Great to see her back.
Evergreen Over 65 Gavin Bayne was 1st in his age category, Gavin’s 1:03:33 putting him in 123rd place but, more importantly, it was also the 2nd fastest time of the year by an Over 65 nationally.
Just ahead of Bayne, club colleague Graeme Thorpe was 119th in 1:03:06 and 17th O/45, and Matthew Boyle 174th in 1:08:20.
Finally, there were two Parkruns worth noting on Saturday morning, teenager Liam Roche setting a new personal best with his 16:19 at Blyth and triathlete Dan Dixon, now a GB international of course breaking Carl Avery’s old course record at Druridge Bay with a time of 15:17 on what isn’t an especially fast course.
Morpeth Harriers put out no less than nine teams – more than any of its North East rivals, in fact – in the Norman Woodcock Relays on a blustery Saturday lunchtime in Gosforth Park.
Since 2017 a three runner mixed relay race instead of the previous five miler, the event is held in an unusual setting around the ambulance track inside the horse race circuit of Gosforth Race Course, with each runner completing a lung-bursting 1.66 mile lap, on this occasion made all the more challenging by a strong westerly wind directly into the face for the final half a mile. (Bizarrely, the park was also hosting Covid vaccination boosters and a Winter Wonderland to boot.)
Hosted by Elswick Harriers, there were some 76 teams entered on this occasion, with Morpeth the existing holders from the competition’s last staging in 2018.
Early action saw a hard fought first leg and a terrific run by Ponteland High School student Joe Anderson, who led most of the way and was only pipped over the last hundred yards by runners from Sunderland Harriers, finishing in a recorded time of 8 minutes 6 seconds.
Joe was followed home by fellow teenager Ryan Davies in 8m 24s with A team Senior Mark Snowball a few seconds behind (8:32) and B team lead off Anthony Janetta chasing him home in 8:49.
The placings changed on the second leg however, with most clubs choosing to put out their female runner on the second leg. (Although local outfit Gosforth Harriers went for a Senior Man instead, and hung their two Senior Female youngsters out to dry on the last leg).
A youthful Tynedale Harriers squad now came into the picture, with talented triathlete Jess Sails running the day’s second fastest time by a female athlete (9:00).
Sails was chased all the way by Cat Macdonald, whose 8:59 was also the fastest female run and who moved the A team back into contention. Behind Macdonald, Abi Leiper’s 9:35 also moved the B team into a strong position.
Tynedale’s Harry Courtney took the lead in the race half way through the final lap, and although he was chased hard all the way by Tom Innes, his time of 8:10 proved just good enough to stay ahead, Tynedale winning in a combined time of 25 minutes 34 seconds. Tom had to settle for second place, his 8:15 clocking meaning the A team finished some twelve seconds behind.
Behind Tom there was a tremendous performance by an in form Conor Marshall, whose 7:58 was the fastest run of the day and also moved the B team into 5th position by the end with a time of 26:22. Ironically, had Conor run for the A team, the club would have retained the trophy. (Wonder who was responsible for that decision?)
There was some compensation however with victory for the club in both the Over 40’s and Over 60’s categories.
Guy Bracken (8:41, 2nd fastest Veteran time of the day and all that only a few weeks off turning sixty), Jane Hodgson (9:26, the fastest Over 40 time of the day) and Lee Bennett (8:52) placed 7th overall in the race and were out of sight of their nearest competitors by the end, with the team’s 26:59 only a minute and a half behind the winners.
It was a little closer in the Over 60s, with Dave Nicholson (10:16), Pam Woodcock (13:12) and Neil Macanany (9:56) holding off the challenge from Elswick’s squad for a 33:24 total.
In 14th place were the club’s C team who had been led out by Joe, with Caitlin Flanagan running 10:03 and Lindsey Quinn the same time for 28:12.
Ryan’s team were 18th, with Lizzie Rank recording 10:16 and Lorna Macdonald, back in competitive relay action, in 10:17 and thankfully coming through unscathed. (28:57)
The Over 40 B team of Eric Adams (9:28, Gemma Floyd (10:13, and great to see her back competing) and Ed Hillier (10:00) were 22nd in 29:41.
35th in 32:18 were the team of Shaun Land (9:25), Sarah Lawson (10:25) and Savannah Kelley (12:28) in 32:18, with the club’s final team still in a respectable 50th place with runs by Paul Bellingham (10:36), Margaret Macdonald (13:26) and Andy Leeson (10:14) in 34:16.
The club placed no less than five of its nine teams in the top twenty, and with wins in two of the four competitions, second and fifth overall places and the day’s two fastest times by male and female runners, there was perhaps more than adequate compensation for the loss of the trophy itself. Better team management would have brought a win of course. (At least team manager Scaife could forlornly claim to have taught, in a previous life, two of the winning Tynedale team at QEHS…)
The annual Heaton Harriers Memorial Races took place on Newcastle Town Moor on Remembrance Sunday morning.
First held in 1920 to remember the dead of the Great War, Heaton Harriers instituted the races because so many of their own members had fought and died in the conflict; indeed, the club records that some 100 of its original 120 members were involved in action, of whom 12 paid the ultimate price.
The current races offer opportunities for Young Athletes in races from Under 11 upwards in distances from 1k to 5k, as well as a Senior 10k race, which this year incorporated the North East Masters Athletics Association Championships.
With cool and still conditions ideal for racing, the Newcastle Royal Grammar School was again able to offer its facilities for race HQ with athletes making the short jog across from the school and over Brandling Park via the subway to the start on the Town Moor – thankfully now cow-free.
In the earlier Under 15 three kilometre race, Morpeth’s Joe Close finished 3rd in a time of 9 minutes 58 seconds behind race winner Harry Lyons. Tabitha Robson was 13th and 4th female finisher in the same race in a time of 11:26 behind winner Hannah Wightman (10:48).
The following U/17 five km race was won by Morpeth’s Will De Vere Owen in 15:42, Will showing no after effects from the previous day’s cross country exertions at Middlesborough.
Will was backed up by James Tilley, 4th in 16:45, and Ralph Robson, 5th in 17:01 for a winning team.
The Senior Men and Women’s 10k saw a pair of equally outstanding performances from Calum Johnson of Gateshead Harriers and Sonia Samuels of Sale Harriers, North East-born and formerly of Wallsend.
Johnson looked in imperious form as he raced away from the rest of the field in dominant fashion, winning in a time of 28 minutes 28 seconds, both a course record and a new personal best.
Morpeth’s George Lowry had chosen to try and go with Johnson at least part of the way, but was soon left stranded between the leader and a chasing group of club colleague Sam Hancox, Birtley’s Adrian Bailes and Jarlath McKenna of Derby AC. He paid the price after half way sadly, with the chasing group reeling him in and then passing him, and then having their own three-way battle for the minor placings.
In the end it was Bailes who was able to take 2nd place in a time of 30:23, with Mckenna 3rd and Hancox 4th in 30:24, although as an Over 40 Mckenna was later given the veteran’s prize and Hancox 3rd.
It was particularly good to see young Hancox back in competitive action after a difficult lockdown and disruptions caused both by injury and lack of racing opportunities. Lowry placed 5th in the race in 31:03 ahead of the reliable Conrad Franks of Gateshead Harriers.
For Morpeth, O/45 Eric Adams was 91st in 38:01 with Lindsey Quinn the club’s first female finisher (166th and 9th Senior Woman) in a new pb of 40:53.
Lizzie Rank was not far behind in 184th with 41:31, also a pb, and she was in turn just ahead of her mum Shuna, who, in her first 10k for a good while, ran an excellent 45:02 for 247th and 4th Over 45.
Two of the club’s leading veteran runners picked up age group awards, with David Mcguchin 2nd Over 70 with 44:40 and Paul Bentley, who has clearly got the competitive bit between his teeth this Autumn, 1st Over 75 in 51:24.
Former GB international Samuels meanwhile also looked to be in a different league, winning the women’s race in a time of 33:29 ahead of Justina Heslop of Elswick, no mean athlete herself and back on the comeback trail, with a time of 35:51. Alex Sneddon of Jarrow and Hebburn AC was 3rd.
In all some 382 finished, although competitors will be a little alarmed that several athletes reported the distance as being slightly short on their GPS, with match referee Bill McGurk investigating if a course marker had been placed slightly short at the turn round. A shame, as this would spoil an otherwise very well organised and enjoyable event.